Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Sunday, 21 March 2021

John Stone: Attempting to ravish and carnally know

Hockworthy: Hockford Cottage
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Martin Bodman -

John Stone, the third of Henry Stone and Mary Ridgeway's children, born in Ashbrittle, Somerset, in 1858, may have been a bit of a rogue.

In 1861, John (3), like his older brothers, was at home with his parents at Court Place, Ashbrittle. I've not been able to locate him in 1871, when he will have been around 13, but he'd already left his parents' home by then. 

Some time ago, Peter Calver of Lost Cousins asked the uncomfortable question, "Was your ancestor a rapist?" Hummmm ....

In 1873, aged 15, John Stone, was arrested and taken to the Devon County Prison, on 2 Jun, accused of "Attempting to ravish and carnally know Maria Disney on the 28th May, 1873, at Hockworthy." The committing magistrate was J. C. New, Esq., of Cullompton, but John wasn't tried: the bill was ignored for assault with intent to ravish, indecent assault and assault. There are no further details or clues as to why the case did not proceed, but as Peter suggested, securing a conviction was difficult in those times.

On the 1871 census, Mariah Disney (then 12, so 14 at the time of the alleged assault), daughter of John Disney, farm labourer, was living at Hockford Barton, Hockworthy. We may assume she was the young lady in question. 

[NOTE: John's sister, Harriet Stone, married their first cousin, James Ridgway. James Ridgway's mother was Ann Tooze, who's own mother was Eliza Disney, so there's no doubt that John was also "keeping it in the family"!]

Hockworthy: lane in the Lowman valley
The Lowman - running in the ditch by the hedge - defines the parish boundary with Uplowman
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Martin Bodman -

Widening the area of search and including the keyword "railway", I found John on the 1881 census living in the household of Henry Payne, Railway Tunnel Miner, at Railway Hut, Hurst Green, Oxted, Godstone, Surrey. Living there were Henry Payne (31), his wife, four children aged 5 to 11, as well as nine men, all boarders, all railway tunnel labourers. And at the bottom of the long list is John Stone (22), Tunnel Miner's Labourer, born in Somerset.

The Oxted Tunnel - on the Oxted line, which passes under the North Downs in two tunnels, and then splits into two branches at Hurst Green, adjoining Oxted in Surrey - opened in 1884. It doesn't take much imagination, therefore, to see what he must have been working on in 1881. 

Such hard work and what must have been horrendous conditions, with so many people crammed into an undoubtedly a crowded space, lacking in facilities: a perfect environment for transmitting infectious diseases ...

Because one year later, John Stone, "Labourer on Railway", died, aged 24, on 27 Aug 1882, in Uplowman. His sister, Mary Ann Prescott (she had married earlier that year), was present at his death. Wondering if he'd been killed in an accident or even a revenge attack, I ordered his death certificate, but John had, in fact, died of the all-too-common at that time, Phthisis (Tuberculosis). He was buried, on 3 Sep 1882, in the churchyard at Uplowman.

Grave of John Stone and his parents, Mary and Henry Stone, in Uplowman Churchyard

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